The baseball regular season begins on the last day of March and extends all the way through October. The 162-game season will eventually separate the contenders from the pretenders, but hope springs eternal this time of year.
The usual suspects are atop the list as World Series favorites, but defending champion San Francisco is not one of those teams. The Giants, capturing their first World Series since 1954 when the team was located in New York City, enter the fray at 15/1 to repeat as champions.
San Francisco won the National League West last season when San Diego suffered a late-season swoon. The Giants rode that momentum to an unexpected title, and pitching will be their strong point once again. The starting rotation consists of Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez and Madison Bumbarner, while closer Brian Wilson enters the season dealing with a strained oblique muscle.
The favorite to win this year’s World Series is Philadelphia at 3/1 behind baseball’s best starting rotation. The Phillies captured the Fall Classic in 2008, and advanced to the 2009 World Series before falling to the New York Yankees.
The old adage says that pitching wins championships, and no team has a better stable of hurlers than Philadelphia. The Phillies’ starting rotation consists of three Cy Young Award winners in Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt, and a World Series MVP winner in Cole Hamels. Closer Brad Lidge was solid last season with 27 saves and a 2.96 ERA.
American League East rivals Boston and New York are next on the list, and figure on battling throughout the campaign once again. The Red Sox (9/2) are slightly ahead of the Yankees (5/1) entering the season. There was a slight shift in the AL East power structure last year with Tampa Bay winning the division, while New York captured the wild-card.
Boston finished in third place with an 89-73 record, but figure on making a serious run for its third World Series title since 2004. The Red Sox improved their team in the offseason with the acquisition of outfielder Carl Crawford and first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. Boston also bolstered an already impressive pitching staff by adding Bobby Jenks as a setup man to closer Jonathan Papelbon.
New York will try to capture this year’s World Series by brute force. ‘The Bronx Bombers’ will have to outscore teams this season because the pitching staff is in shambles. Outside of ace CC Sabathia, the starting rotation consists of Phil Hughes and AJ Burnett, and the loss of retired Andy Pettitte damages the Yankees’ title aspirations. But since this is New York, expect the team to land a quality arm before the trading deadline in late July.
St. Louis, Texas and Minnesota check in at 20/1 to win this year’s World Series. These three teams offer enticing odds from squads that have a realistic shot of cashing your ticket at the end of the year.
The Cardinals figure on contending for the NL Central crown once again behind baseballs best player in Albert Pujols. Meanwhile, the Rangers advanced to their first World Series last year, and still have slugger Josh Hamilton. The Twins won last year’s AL Central, and will be a force once again with catcher Joe Mauer and first baseman Justin Morneau in the lineup.
Four teams saddled with 25/1 odds of winning the Fall Classic include Cincinnati, Atlanta, Tampa Bay and Colorado. These teams would have to have all the breaks fall their way to capture the crown, but didn’t San Francisco use that formula to last year’s World Series victory?
It is always interesting to keep an eye on the longest shots on the board, this year highlighted by Pittsburgh at 500/1. The Pirates enter the 2011 campaign with the longest losing streak of any professional sports franchise in North America at 18 years. Figure on that number to reach 19, and for Pittsburgh to be mathematically eliminated shortly after the all-star break.
Baltimore, Milwaukee and Arizona are all 100/1 to win the World Series, while Seattle and Washington are 125/1. Cleveland and Kansas City check in at 200/1 to shock the baseball establishment.
Before laughing off these long shot teams, remember that football’s St. Louis Rams won Super Bowl XXXV as a 200/1 preseason selection. Now all these baseball squads have to do is locate the next Kurt Warner to win 20 games or hit the curveball.
Check out Don Best's season previews for all 30 MLB clubs at the following links: Florida Marlins ... Tampa Bay Rays ... Atlanta Braves ... St. Louis Cardinals ... Kansas City Royals ... Texas Rangers ... Houston Astros ... Arizona Diamondbacks ... San Diego Padres ... Los Angeles Angels ... Los Angeles Dodgers ... San Francisco Giants ... Oakland Athletics ... Seattle Mariners ... Colorado Rockies ... Minnesota Twins ... Milwaukee Brewers ... Chicago Cubs ... Chicago White Sox ... Detroit Tigers ... Toronto Blue Jays ... Cleveland Indians ... Cincinnati Reds ... Pittsburgh Pirates ... Washington Nationals ... Baltimore Orioles ... Philadelphia Phillies ... New York Mets ... New York Yankees ... Boston Red Sox